Charles Lazarus Is a World-class Musician Who Calls Minnesota Home

Charles Lazarus’ love of music has led him all over the country and the world. A highly talented and accomplished trumpeter, Lazarus made his Carnegie Hall solo debut when he just a 19-year-old student at Julliard. He has gone on to play with some of music’s biggest and best-known brass ensembles. Now, Lazarus calls Minnesota home. On top of his tenure with the Minnesota Orchestra, Lazarus stays busy working on a wide array of collaborative and solo performances and sharing his deep love of music with others.

Lazarus, who hails from North Carolina, first picked up the trumpet when he was 12. It wasn’t his first exposure to a musical instrument—he had already tried his hand at the piano and the violin—but it was the most memorable. Lazarus fell in love with the brassy instrument and its bright, bold sound, and he’s been playing it ever since.

“The trumpet is one of those instruments that has been a part of all styles of music since the beginning,” says the Medina resident. “There are so many different contexts to playing the trumpet, and I enjoy wearing those many different hats.”

Throughout his career, Lazarus has worn a lot of hats—from soloist to composer to bandleader. In 2000, after about a decade on the road, he was ready to settle down and stay in one place for a while. “I was looking to play some great music with great ensembles and live in a great city,” he says, noting that it was “a tall order.” But the Twin Cities and the Minnesota Orchestra more than met it.

Lazarus remains a strong presence in the Minnesota Orchestra and is a hit with audiences and co-musicians alike. Director of “Live at Orchestra Hall,” Grant Meachum, calls Lazarus a “fount of new ideas” for shows. “A lot of what we do is sit around having what-if conversations,” Meachum says. “He will bring an idea—wouldn’t it be great if we had this musician or did a show in this style or we could probably write this piece with the orchestra in a really cool way like this.”

Among those ideas are the annual Christmas special “Merry and Bright” and a new show, collaborating with Tommy Barbarella called “Our Love is Here to Stay,” which premieres next spring and features the gospel quintet The Steeles. “I first heard them in New York in the Broadway show, The Gospel at Colonus, in college, and I’ve literally been a fan ever since, and so to have the opportunity to collaborate with them with this new take on the American songbook is really exciting,” he says.
Lazarus also says that it’s the myriad of opportunities to collaborate that make pursuing music so enjoyable. “I really enjoy working with different kinds of musicians. One thing I find to be a really positive thing is working with other artists that are different, but finding a common ground where we can connect.”

His collaborators can attest to his energy and talent as well. Composer Steve Heitzeg says that Lazarus is any composer’s dream musician. In 2015, Lazarus premiered Heitzeg’s “American Nomad,” a trumpet concerto, with the Minnesota Orchestra, and went on to record it in on CD.

“That’s what you call a great performer—not only are you talented, but you commission a piece, and you perform it as much as you can, and then you want to try and get it recorded,” says Heitzeg.

Merry and Bright
December 1
8–10 p.m.

Our Love is Here to Stay
April 6, 2018
8–10 p.m.